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GM Steps Up Manufacturing to Aid COVID-19 Response

General Motors is adding facilities to manufacture face masks. This comes as the automaker is already stepping up its efforts to produce ventilators.
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While General Motors plants that build vehicles like the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado RST sit idle, the automaker is reopening some sites to produce badly needed medical supplies to fight COVID-19.

GM to Make Masks at Warren Plant

GM is temporarily converting its Warren, Michigan, plant to build Level 1 surgical masks. Production will begin next week and within two weeks ramp up to 50,000 masks per day, with the potential to increase to 100,000 per day. The machinery to fabricate the masks has already been delivered to the plant. GM says its ability to make the masks depends on the availability of the materials needed to assemble them.

The plan to make the masks came from employees. GM is relying on its traditional suppliers as well as new suppliers who specialize on the medical device industry. GM will be collaborating with governments and local suppliers to distribute the masks.

GM Converting Kokomo Plant for Ventilators

General Motors is also planning to build critical care ventilators at its Kokomo, Indiana, manufacturing plant. It hopes to be able to ship FDA-cleared ventilators as soon as next month. GM is already partnering with Ventec Life Systems to produce Ventec’s critical care ventilator called VOCSN at their facility in Washington. Efforts to set up tooling and manufacturing capacity at the GM Kokomo plant are already underway to produce more of the VOCSN ventilators. GM is helping Ventec build thousands of the life-saving ventilators to fight the COVID-19 threat. GM is leaning on its suppliers to help make the needed parts available quickly. GM is donating its resources at cost. GM says its partnership with Ventec could produce more than 10,000 additional ventilators per month.

"This unique partnership combines Ventec's respiratory care expertise with GM's manufacturing might to produce sophisticated and high-quality critical care ventilators," said Chris Kiple, CEO of Ventec Life Systems. "This pandemic is unprecedented and so is this response, with incredible support from GM and their suppliers. Healthcare professionals on the front lines deserve the best tools to treat patients and precision critical care ventilators like VOCSN are what is necessary to save lives."

"We are proud to stand with other American companies and our skilled employees to meet the needs of this global pandemic," said Mary Barra, GM chairman and CEO. "This partnership has rallied the GM enterprise and our global supply base to support Ventec, and the teams are working together with incredible passion and commitment. I am proud of this partnership as we work together to address urgent and life-saving needs."

GM will deploy an estimated 1,000 American workers to ramp up production of critical care ventilators immediately. Working with the UAW, GM has brought back employees from GM's Kokomo and Marion facilities.

Since they partnered up last week, GM teams in manufacturing, engineering and purchasing have been working with its suppliers to secure parts to help Ventec build as many as 200,000 more critical care ventilators.

"GM is in the position to help build more ventilators because of the remarkable performance of GM and Ventec's global supply base," added Barra. "Our joint teams have moved mountains to find real solutions to save lives and fight the pandemic."

President Trump's Criticism of Automakers

President Donald Trump has criticized the automakers for not acting fast enough to help make the badly needed medical supplies. Trump has invoked the Defense Production Act that allows the president to order private industry to give priority to defense production. Perhaps, the President was not aware of all the work the automakers are already doing to boost the medical supply efforts.

General Motors responded to President Trump’s action with this statement. “Ventec, GM and our supply base have been working around the clock for weeks to meet this urgent need. Our commitment to build Ventec’s high-quality critical care ventilator, VOCSN, has never wavered.

The partnership between Ventec and GM combines global expertise in manufacturing quality and a joint commitment to safety to give medical professionals and patients access to life-saving technology as rapidly as possible. The entire GM team is proud to support this initiative.”

Ford is also helping build ventilators and respirators. Ford is also using its 3D printers to produce thousands of plastic face shields. Fiat Chrysler is gearing up to produce millions of face masks as well as supplying millions of meals to school children that are being homeschooled as a result of COVID-19.

Follow Mary Conway at @maryconwaymedia and send her car news tips for future stories.


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